Update: This article was corrected June 22, 2022, to correct that Carol Hutchins’ contract is the same one she signed in 2017. Previously, The Daily reported that it was a new contract. This was false, and the article has been properly corrected.
Following another year that culminated in a regional exit, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins’ future with the Michigan softball team was questioned by some outside the program. The contract she signed back in 2017 was set to end, and the exodus of players to the transfer portal presented possible signs that this season was Hutchins’ last.
It wasn’t, as Hutchins will return next season.
During a Regents meeting on June 16, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel announced that Hutchins’ five-year deal was a rolling contract. She will remain head coach of the Michigan softball team for the 2023 season and beyond, with her five-year time span resetting every year.
“When people achieve like Hutch achieves, they deserve a five-year rolling contract,” Manuel said.
What that contract entails includes some moving parts.
A rolling contract is not a rarity in the modern sports world, but the length of this contract is. Either party can opt out of this type of contract, and the signee would receive the remainder of the buyout — in this case, five years worth of payment. The rolling contract allows Hutchins to coach for as long as she wishes, as this type of deal is not made if Michigan is intending to end her tenure at the school early.
Essentially, what was previously unwritten has been laid out plainly — Michigan softball is Hutchins’ program, and she can choose to leave when she is satisfied with her time at Alumni Field.
And she has entirely deserved this nod of respect from the University. Barring her recent struggles in NCAA tournaments, Hutchins has made the Wolverines a destination program, one of the only true softball powerhouses outside of the West or South. She led the 2005 Michigan team to a National championship — the first team east of the Mississippi River to do so — and is the all-time winningest coach in college softball history with 1,707 wins to her name.
She also has a capable understudy in associate head coach Bonnie Tholl. Tholl started four seasons at shortstop for Michigan and earned All-Big Ten first team honors every season. Since returning to the program, Tholl has been a member of the coaching staff for 29 years and has been a part of all 12 of Michigan’s Women’s College World Series appearances. She has spent years with Hutchins in the dugout, learning everything she can from one of the Wolverines’ greats.
If Hutchins one day chooses to retire or move on, Tholl seems the heir apparent to eventually take over. In that case, Michigan’s identity won’t change. The lessons taught, the style of coaching and more will likely take after Hutchins’ style.
But for now, Michigan will stay in Hutchins’ hands.
And when that time will end is entirely up to her.